This is just a sneak peek from Klaus’ feature in SCENARIO 1:2015. If you are not a current subscriber to SCENARIO or a member of The Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, then subscribe or get in touch with us here.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, and in some cases even before, we have seen a wide range of protests against authorities and the state of things in Western democracies. Taken together, they seem to constitute a general rebellion – though a rebellion within the framework of democracy rather than armed uprising – a democratic rebellion.
The most famous example is the Occupy movement. Both 2011 and 2012 saw the peaceful occupation of public streets and squares in the United States and many European capitals in response to rising unemployment caused by austerity measures and governments that seemed to favour the richest 1 per cent of the population over the poorest 99 per cent (hence the slogan “We are the 99 %”). This rebellion took the shape of civil disobedience with very few incidents of violence, even when occupiers were forcibly removed. Though the movement more or less dissolved in 2012, the need for change and the ideas it spread continue to live on, as seen for example in the 2014 Hong Kong protests.
Protests against rising inequality and mass unemployment are at the centre of the rebellion, yet inequality and unemployment are far from the only issues.
International trade treaties negotiated behind closed doors, most notably ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) and more recently TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), have been met with very vocal protests followed by online petitions and large-scale public demonstrations. The protesters claim that the treaties mainly benefit corporations over consumers and artists, and the treaties have been broadly criticised for the lack of transparency in their negotiation.
Protests against intellectual property right laws that are seen as too restrictive and out of touch with the Internet Age led to the fall of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the US. SOPA was a United States bill to combat online copyright infringement and online trafficking in counterfeit goods. Provisions included in the bill were deemed too far-reaching by protesters who organised protest events both offline and online. The most famous protest was The English Wikipedia blackout, which occurred for 24 hours on January 18–19, 2012. In place of articles (with the exception of those about SOPA), the site showed only a message in protest of SOPA asking visitors to “Imagine a world without free knowledge.” It is estimated that in excess of 160 million people saw the banner.
A related subject is censorship on the internet, whether political, moral or anti-criminal. British Prime Minister David Cameron has instigated a scheme where internet providers must block porn sites and similar ‘amoral’ content unless an internet user specifically asks to have the content unblocked – and become registered for doing so. Sites found to be blocked include non-pornographic gay and sex-education sites and sites to prevent or report child abuse and domestic violence. Protesters see such schemes as thinly guised attempts at broad state-sponsored censorship with little or no democratic oversight.
The whistleblowers Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden gained a lot of attention when they leaked classified documents documenting unlawful actions of mainly the US government, including alleged war crimes and unlawful surveillance of foreign nationals and US citizens. Their actions carried no personal benefit or profit and indeed have had high personal costs for both and hence should be seen more as moral rebellion than as espionage. Since Snowden’s leaks became public, we have seen broad criticisms against widespread surveillance of citizens, particularly in the UK and the US…
Image via Flickr